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21 January, 1997
The Dutch European Union presidency has listed the Cyprus issue among its top priorities and will work in two directions, namely, for a solution to the Cyprus issue and for preparation of the island republic's accession negotiations.
This is the main conclusion drawn from a discussion held on Cyprus at the Council of Foreign Ministers, the first during the Dutch presidency, which included the Cyprus issue in its policy statements.
Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou said the discussion was positive and referred to positions of the Dutch Council President and Foreign Minister Hans van Mierlo, who raised the issue of Cyprus at the luncheon given for ministers at noon. Mr. Mierlo said the issue of Cyprus is linked to all processes of European Union relations with third countries and Turkey, as well as to the new situation facing Europe in relation to its security, NATO and the West European Union (WEU).
Mr. van Mierlo stressed the need for the EU to activate itself for a solution to the Cyprus issue and for Cypriot accession, adding that the Dutch presidency will raise the issue of Cyprus at one of the upcoming Council of Ministers meetings for an extensive discussion. He also referred, without stating his own position, to the issue of Cyprus arming itself with Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles, which he discussed when he visited Athens and after tension had been defused, explaining that the missiles will arrive in Cyprus in 16 months' time.
Addressing the meeting, Mr. Papandreou stressed the need for all sides handling the Cyprus issue to coordinate themselves: he UN, Washington, the EU and member-states which have shown particular interest.
He said the EU will have an important opportunity in the next few months to utilize activities on Cyprus and use the pre-accession process for Cyprus for a solution to the issue. He further briefed the Council of Ministers on recent discussions held in Athens between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
Mr. Papandreou's positions received a positive response from all ministers. However, he said the British and Italian ministers found the opportunity to refer in general to relations between the EU and Turkey, and stressed that "we must not constantly turn our backs on it."
Mr. Papandreou said his private talks with EU Foreign Relations Commissioner Hans van den Broek were positive. He said a substantive discussion took place and an exchange of views on all crucial procedures to follow in connection with Cyprus. Mr. van de n Broek assured him that he will contribute decisively in both directions, namely for a solution to the Cyprus issue and for Cyprus' accession. He will also contact all officials capable of helping in these two directions.
Replying to a question, Mr. Papandreou said he considers as positive an initiative on Cyprus announced by US President Bill Clinton. He said the initiative is underway, adding that it has started and is expected to be intensified even more as time passes. He further said the fact the US president says he will address the Cyprus issue is considered positive.
Source: Athens News Agency